Writing in Somerville
Alright, not so long ago. Only fourteen years. But a lifetime in so many ways.
Fourteen years ago I rented a house on Campobello Island for two weeks. I invited four friends to join me, which they did at varying points during my stay. The house on a hill, and overlooked the Bay of Fundy. I had never been there, but saw a classified ad in the Boston Globe (remember those?) and the price was right. Plus I knew that FDR had vacationed on Campobello Island, so I figured it had to be fairly nice.
I had assumed that Campobello was in Maine, but it is actually in Canada. Which means every time you went over the bridge to Lubec, you had to go through Customs. This was pre-9/11, so I can’t imagine what it is like now, but even then, you had to stop, explain what your business was, and either get waved through or pulled over for a check. Since we made that trip at least once a day either for sightseeing or to go to the A&P in Lubec, we got used to the “we had to go get limes” sorts of conversations with the guards. One of my friends always hesitated, and was always pulled over for a car search. We started taking bets at the end of the first week on whether he would be waved through, and stopped letting him drive week #2.
The house was old, and charming, but had some quirks. And it also had no internet (1999, that was typical), no television, and it only got one radio station (Canadian public radio). We spent evenings playing Triple Yatzee, and reading. We were also tourists, but it isn’t a big island. We did make a trip up to Eastport, and St. Andrews, stopping at the Ganong factory on the way back. But mostly we read. And looked at the bay. And read.
And here’s where my memories of that Maine vacation turn into an adventure. The people who owned the house weren’t readers, since there were no books in the house. I think I heard you gasp, dear reader, and I couldn’t agree more. No books? In a rental? I had packed several books, as had my friend Steve, but since we were alone for the first few days, and we are both voracious readers, we blew through our stash, and read each others books–all mysteries. We called our friends, and suggested they bring warm clothes (it was cold) and books. But our next two friends who arrived were on a literary track, and brought one big book with them. Obviously we hadn’t made the situation clear.
When my last friend arrived, and realized I wasn’t kidding about the warm clothes, we hatched a plan to drive to Ellsworth (LL Bean outlet), assuming we could find a book store somewhere. Anywhere. We were wrong. Again, remember dear reader, no smart phones. No GPS. No internet.
We started to head back to Lubec, warmer but defeated. And then the gods of reading smiled. And we stumbled upon the Big Chicken Barn Books and Antiques store.
And our vacation was saved. I can’t even remember all the books I bought, but I bought a lot. I can still smell the store, and that wonderful scent of old books and dust.
I learned my lesson. From that vacation until 2009, I always allotted half of my suitcase to books. In 2009 I bought a Kindle, and that changed, to a degree. I still pack a couple of books, just in case there is no electricity. And if I am driving, I bring a bag of books. I never want to panic like that again.
While reading Barb Ross’s new book Clammed Up, I thought about that quirky, crazy, unbelievably relaxing vacation. An island plays an important role in this new series, and though visitors don’t have to go through Customs, they do have to go through a few hoops to get to the island. But it is worth it. And it will be worth it to you, to visit the island by reading Barb’s book. You’ll love it!
What a great story, Julie. I know so well that panicky feeling of, I’m almost done with this book and it’s the last one I have!
Especially when it is one you are dying to finish, but have to slow down!
We have a great used-books store here in Dover, New Hampshire, in case you want to stop along the way. My one regret as an ebook author is that my work won’t wind up there, but then, as an author, those used books don’t pay royalties, either.
I like the serendipitous nature of your finding that old chicken barn, which somehow reflects the way many of find the books we’re reading as well.
I will keep the Dover location in mind. And while I agree about ebooks, the fact that they exist is such a game changer. Thanks for posting!
How interesting! The houses we’ve rented have always been full of books! Did you leave books behind for the next people?
I think we did!
The Big Chicken Barn Books and Antiques Store. Bill and I were just there! I spent $65 dollars, totally by accident. (The used book I bought had about 5 penciled prices on various intro pages–I think representing how many times it had been sold over the years.) But regardless, I love the book and it helped me finish the latest Maine Clambake mystery, so who can quibble?
Maine author Sarah Graves lives in Eastport and they sell her books at the hardware store because–no bookstore. That would be difficult for me even in the age of Amazon. I love my neighborhood bookstores–Porter Square Books when I’m in Somerville and Sherman’s and Maine Coast Books when I’m in Boothbay.
I love bookstores too, though (ironically) there isn’t one close by in downtown Boston. I sort of love that they carry her books in the hardware store.
Also, I love leaving paperbacks in rentals. I’ve left Lucy Burdette’s delightful books for the next inhabitants of our rental in Key West.
I leave them when I travel.
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